Saturday January 12, 2019 at 11:48 am

Nitrogen oxide, Carbon Monoxide, Ozone… these are some of the terms we have all read about,
growing up in our science books, commonly known as air pollutants. Frankly speaking, I used to
think of them as alien concepts, as though this was something that existed somewhere else, not in
places where I live, work or eat! However, in today’s times, these hazardous pollutants have
become a part of the daily vocabulary. What is alarming is that while some countries across the
world are marching promptly towards revising their policies and infrastructural investments to
evolve towards more environmental friendly and holistic measures in their long term plans, some
others are blind and brazen about their priorities, still irrationally digging their own graves in the
face of crisis that is already at the door step. What makes this situation worse is that India, the
country I live in, is amidst the top in increasing levels of pollution, competing with Bangladesh and
Georgia, as per the samples of air pollution collected by the World Health Organisation in 2016.
Now, if one were to examine the various causes and sources of this rise in pollution, there are
industrial sources, vehicular sources and consumer sources. However, it is the pollutants below 2.5
microns in diameter, that are emitted from, say, open flames or diesel combustion, that linger much
longer in the air and can cause severe damage to the lungs.
The rise in pollution with such rampant speed makes me wonder what measures are being taken
at the policy level to reduce emission of pollutants. I found out that compulsory conversion of all
public transports in New Delhi from Fuel to compressed natural gas in 2002 contributed to a
significant reduction in the vehicular fuel based pollution, which contributes to about 25% of the
winter pollution. Further enforcement of strict vehicular pollution check in the year 2006 has also
helped to curtain pollution. However, very little regulation on private vehicles has caused the
number of private vehicles to rise from 5.3 million to 8.5 million between 2007 to 2014 in Delhi
alone! Despite the screaming data, there had been no introduction of cleaner fuel policies being
impressed on private vehicles. Only this year, as per the cleaner Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI), the
Supreme Court has made it mandatory for new vehicles bought from April 2020 to meet the BS-VI
For pollutants emitted through industrial combustion, use of pet coke and furnace oil was banned
by the Supreme Court in October 2017 in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana- the northern belt
that contributes the highest levels of industrial pollution in the country.
Subsidisation of solar powered plants in private as well as industrial and agricultural use is also
helping to promote use of clean and sustainable power sources in the country.
Apart from the measures being taken by the government, a handful of corporates and non-
government organisations have also been working on interventions for behavioural changes of the
masses towards pollution. Curtailing of firecrackers during Diwali and emergence of several car-
pool sources is a small but inspiring example of the same. Simple personal measures like use of
masks, air purifiers or simply indoor yoga or pranayams to strengthen the lung capacity are also
some measures being observed from the health perspective that can be adopted at the individual
There are many of us still living under the illusion that the environment crisis, global warming or
drastic drop in ground water levels are all stories to be read in books. But those who are willing to
look around and look at the larger good, beyond their self-interests, will not fail to notice what is
going horribly wrong with the way we have treated our environment. While we criticise or applaud
the ruling authorities of the past, present or the future, we have to take responsibilities in our own
hands, after all, we are the consumers, the industries and the vote bank of this country. Our
individual as well as collective efforts, at the end of the day, are that will ultimately drain or drown
us in this wave of crisis and then, it will be the common citizen that suffers, not some far off jargons
like the authority, the policy makers, or even the government!